Lizards Have Family Values

An adult female desert night lizard with her 3-day-old offspring.

Lizards get a bad rap when it comes to their families: They lay their eggs and never look back.

But that’s not the case for desert night lizards, which have been found investing time and energy in their young and forming families — a strategy that was thought exclusive to mammals and birds.

“Birds, mammals and reptiles are so different in so many ways,” said Alison Davis, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. Reptiles aren’t even warm-blooded, she notes, yet here they are forming families just like their warmer cousins.

It’s a seismic shift for the way we think of reptiles, and evidence of how a survival strategy — like parental care and social groups — evolves over and over, in very divergent groups. “It’s basically the same rules of the game,” Davis said.

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